12th November 2019

Last week I was both surprised and delighted to receive an invitation from Cllr Ravi Venkatesh, Haydon Wick Parish Council, to attend an event he’d organised in Pinehurst. The event’s purpose was something of a literary celebration – in fact a Kannada celebration. Let me explain.

Cllr Venkatesh hails from an Indian state by the name of Karnataka. The language of Karnataka is Kannada. No – I’d not heard of it either. Nor of the Kannada community either. But more on that in a bit.

Bookends

For some years now, when relatives were visiting from India, they’d bring with them books in their mother tongue – Kannada. Seeking to make easier access to books in the Kannada language, Cllr Venkatesh and his wife approached Swindon’s library system to get Kannada-language books integrated into the library system. This the library service agreed to. So the event last Friday evening was to celebrate the integration of fifty Kannada-language books into the library system.

As well as myself and Tony Hillier (Swindon’s community poet!) the visiting Karnataka Govt Secretary for Kannada Development also graced this lovely occasion full of delightful people.

Kannada Celebration - Asian lady singing

The Kannada Language

Swindon is, as we know, a multi-cultural town. It’s a city of sanctuary and home of the Harbour Project.

I’ve heard it said that there’s around 120 first languages in Swindon. At a push I could name half a dozen or so – and Kannada would not have been included. So before I went to this event I thought it provident to do a smidge of research.

Also known as Kanarese, Kannada is an ancient language. According to Brittanica.Com, early 21st-century data indicates some 38 million individuals speak Kannada as their first language. Further, it’s likely another 9 to 10 million speak it as a secondary language. In 2008, the Indian government granted Kannada classical-language status.

Kannada Literature

To give you an idea of this language’s literary credentials, Kannada literature began in the 9th century CE with the Kavirajamarga of Nripatunga. Brittanica.com goes on to tell us that the earliest extant grammar dates from the 12th century and is by Nagavarma. In short – the Kannada language is around 1,000 years old. English is around 1.400 years old. So it’s not so far behind in the scheme of things.

The Kannadan Community

So there’s little else to say now, aside from what a pleasure and an honour it was to meet Ravi (Cllr Venkatesh) properly – having bumped into him at community events – and his Kannada community. All of whom could not have been more charming and delightful.

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